How The Ford Model T Took Over The World

This Episode of Real Engineering is brought
to you by Skillshare, home to over 20,000 classes that could teach you a new lift skill. The Ford Model T was not the first car. Not even close. Depending on how you define what a car is,
that honour was achieved 100 years before Henry Ford was even born in 1769, when French
engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot created this steam powered vehicle designed to travel off
rail. The honour for the first true automobile goes
to Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes Benz, in 1885. With this single piston 2 stroke gasoline
powered vehicle. The art of the automobile was well under development
before Henry Ford hit the scene. No Ford did not invent the automobile, he
invented something much more profound. He created modern society. That is a massive claim, but bear with me. His manufacturing techniques did not just
revolutionise how we design and build everything. Making complicated machinery like tractors
and cars affordable for the masses. His manufacturing techniques radically changed
the trajectories of billions of people’s careers. At the turn of the 18th century craft manufacturing
was the status quo. Defined by a highly skilled workforce. People wishing to pursue a career in automotive
manufacturing, entered their career and progressed through an apprenticeship. Picking up a huge variety of skills, gradually
learning the tricks of the trade and being masters of their craft. Many would go on to run their own machine
shops. These were less employees, and more contractors. In these days, a machine like an automobile
was not built entirely in house. Parts would come from smaller machine shops
from all over a city. They used general purpose tools and machines
to create the parts needed, which would be sent to the final assembler. These part would vary massively from one batch
to another, requiring a skill assembling team. Workers needed to understand the function
of the part they were working on, and skillfully manipulate the parts together into the final
vehicle. There was no mass manufacturing of complex
machines like this. Each vehicle was one of a kind, commissioned
by whoever was wealthy enough to afford it. At this production volume no company could
create a monopoly. There were hundreds of small craft shops like
this across Western Europe and North America, but many would soon be run out of business
by Henry Ford before they had the chance to adopt his mass manufacturing techniques. Only the best craft manufacturers survived. Companies like Aston Martin and Bentley succeeded
by focusing on the ultra wealthy that could afford these one off vehicles, using skilled
craftsmen to build unique and luxurious cars, but even they would soon have to join the
movement to survive. All eventually being bought out by these mass
production power houses, no longer able to keep up with cost of innovation and manufacturing
required to keep pace in the automotive industry. At the high point of the Model T’s success
in 1923, Ford was manufacturing 2.1 million Model Ts a year, a figure that would only
be matched by a single vehicle model again with the VW Beetle. Many people chalk Henry Ford’s success down
to inflexibility in design. The famous quote of “You can have colour
as long as it is black”. This was true for many years, but perhaps
not for the reason you think. You see, Henry Ford was obsessed with manufacturing
speeds. The painting process he used allowed the paint
to dry quickly, and it was only available in black. [6] He shaved time off wherever possible to
achieve that monumental milestone of 2.1 million Model Ts a year. The Model-T was no fluke, it was the culmination
in over 20 design iterations over 5 years. Each one tweaking the design and manufacturing
procedure to cut seconds off the total process, and the innovations continued through the
nearly 20 years of production, that would see a total of 15 million Model Ts manufactured. On the first day of production in 1908, the
average task cycle for the Model T lasted 514 minutes. The task cycle time is the length of time
before a single task is repeated. So, the average worker did not repeat a task
for 8 and a half hours. For Ford, this was essentially how quickly
a single production line was producing vehicles, as assembly lines cannot start a new vehicle
until another has exited at the other end. So, he set to work on reducing that cycle
time, and by 1913 he managed to bring it down to just 2.3 minutes. For a product this complex, consisting of
hundreds of parts, with hundreds of processes, that is astounding and was something no other
company had ever achieved. How on earth did Ford achieve this quantum
leap forward in manufacturing speedl? Let’s first start with innovations that
Ford was not responsible for that allowed him to begin this journey. As I said, one of the reasons highly skilled
workers were essential to these industries before Ford came along, was because of the
high variability between parts. In engineering we call this tolerancing. When I worked as a design engineer, I needed
to specify the tolerances I needed for specific part features. Say I needed a shaft to fit a particular hole,
I need to specify how much the machinist was permitted to deviate from the listed dimension. If I have a 20 mm hole paired with a 19 mm
shaft, and I specify that both can deviate from that dimension by plus or minus 0.5 millimeters. Even at the extreme ends of both, where both
are 19.5 mm wide, they will still fit with some force. This may not be acceptable depending on application,
and higher tolerancing may be needed, which generally means an increase in cost. Engineers regularly screw up with these things
even today, but in Ford’s day consistently achieving a tolerance that tight in mass manufacturing
would have been huge task, and was generally something saved for military applications,
and not for low cost consumer products. This was largely due to the manufacturing
techniques of the day, specifically heat treatment methods. As explained in my knife forging and aluminium
videos, metals need to be heated and cooled in specific ways to strengthen or harden the
metal, but this also makes the metal much harder to cut and shape, so the metals were
often cut first and heat treated after. This heating and cooling causes the metal
to deform due to thermal expansion, which can then throw the original piece out of tolerance. This is called warping, and it made it nigh
on impossible to get a consistent final product. Many attribute Ford with revolutionizing the
standardisation of parts [3], but in truth he was simply at the right place at the right
time to benefit from technologies that facilitated it. New methods for cutting and stamping pre-hardened
metals allowed Ford to eliminate much of this variability due to warping. Advancements in precision measurement and
manufacturing allowed Ford to be confident that parts would be interchangeable, and in
turn this allowed Ford to design his vehicles in a way that reduced costs. This was the dawn of destruction for the craft
manufacturing industry, and the beginning of a movement that would change the face of
modern society. While his competitors were casting each cylinder
of their engine blocks separately and bolting them together, due to the difficulty in casting
a single part with multiple holes that needed to line up precisely. Ford casted a single complex engine block,
that drastically reduced the time required to manufacture and assembly it. This of course, led to incredibly expensive
dedicated machinery needed to manufacture a single piece of the vehicle. In the world of craft manufacturing, a skilled
worker could use a general purpose tool and skillfully use it to produce the final product. In the world of mass manufacturing this was
not acceptable. It took too long and required skilled workers
who were too difficult to replace. For example, engine blocks consist of an upper
and lower part that need to mate perfectly to maintain a seal for engine compression. Ford’s competitors, like Cadillac, used
a single flexible milling machine to create a flush surface on both the upper and lower
halves of the engine block. Engine blocks and heads were loaded and milled
slowly and precisely one at a time. Ford instead created dedicated machines to
mill engine blocks and engine heads separately, 15 and 30 at a time respectively. Workers simply snapped the unmilled pieces
into a tray while the previous lot was being milled, and then pushed the tray into place
when the time came. A worker could be trained in 5 minutes to
do this task. They didn’t need to speak the same language
as the person next to them. They didn’t need to think about anything
else. Just feed the machine. Like the little butter passing robot of Rick
and Morty, “What is my purpose? You pass butter. OH MY GOD.”
these people had a single purpose. This of course resulted in inflexibility in
design. The cost of introducing an entirely new model
vehicle was drastically increased. This is why, even today, that car brands tend
to iterate on old designs rather than introduce entirely new models. It’s simply too expensive and time consuming
to retrofit entire production lines. When Ford eventually decided to completely
redesign the Model T and produce the Model A, these machines were thrown out, but he
had achieved his goal, cycle times were lowering, and there was still room to improve. Ford managed to half cycle times from 2.3
minutes to 1.2 minutes, with his next innovation. When production first started on the Model
T employees worked from a stationary work stand. If they needed a part or tool they would get
up and get it themselves. Ford soon recognized the waste and introduced
dedicated stock suppliers, who’s only job was to ensure that other workers had the parts
they needed to keep production running at a constant pace. Where possible these employees were replaced
with automated supply lines. This idea grew and evolved to the introduction
of Ford’s greatest manufacturing innovation, the moving assembly line, a manufacturing
technique still in use today, even for huge machines like planes. This is Boeing’s moving assembly like for
the 777, which carries the entire 166 tonne plane across the factory ford, gradually adding
the 3 million parts needed to complete it. This method introduces a sense of urgency
to the factory floor, an ever looming deadline to complete your work before the plane reaches
the next production step. If there is a critical problem the entire
production line will literally stop moving until it’s fixed. [5] Ford was not the first to introduce such
an idea. They had been used in simple production lines
for butchering of carcasses and food preparation before, but never for anything this complex
and Ford applied it as a science. Using his engineering skills to help pioneer
a new branch of engineering, industrial engineering. A branch of engineering mostly concerned with
optimizing the logistics of manufacturing. Spend a few hours playing Factorio and you
will really gain an appreciation for the complexity of this profession. It starts off simple, but as your factory
grows you need to carefully manage production speeds to avoid pile ups. You need to plan and place your production
units to maximize transportation speeds, and get the products where they need to be. One of the huge problems you run into is faster
production units producing items faster than you need them further up the line, causing
pile ups of stock that can back up and actually block other production units, before you know
it production has grinder to a halt. The moving assembly line forces all workers
to work at the same pace. Faster workers can’t produce items faster
than they are needed, and slower workers can’t slack off. Ford’s innovations catapulted The Ford Motor
Company to international success, but that dominance would not last forever. Companies came from all over the world to
observe Ford’s factories. They marveled at how the factory itself was
like a finely tuned machine, each part feeding into the other. They took their lessons home, and by 1955
mass manufacturing had proliferated around the world, and soon companies outside the
US were not just catching up with the big three of Detroit. Ford, General Motors and Cadillac, but far
exceeding their capabilities. Most notably Toyota in post world war 2 Japan
who led a revolution in manufacturing through a new manufacturing philosophy, lean manufacturing. This graph shows all vehicles produced by
region after 1955, showing the explosion in growth in Japan with the advent of lean manufacturing,
that would lead to Detroit’s eventually demise. Detroit would soon become a ghost town. Just as these companies viewed their machines
as disposable, they viewed their employees as disposable. Dropping them the moment demand tanked. This problem has only got worse. Zero hour contracts and strict control of
unions is common. Ford actually paid his workers incredibly
well for the time, but that meant little when demand dropped and these workers had few transferable
skills to gain new employment. For better or worse Ford’s innovations completely
changed the job market for billions of people. I was one of those people, working 12 hour
shifts with only one task. Weigh a stent and pass it to the next step. During that time I made extra efforts to learn
new skills outside of work to keep myself sane. One way to learn new skills is through Skillshare,
and why not start by learning about the stock market with this course from my friends at
Business Casual, who I have also just made a video about Henry Ford’s rise to success
on their channel. This is just one in over 20,000 classes you
could take on Skillshare. That range from creative skills like painting
and music lessons to technical skills like coding. With professional and understandable classes,
that follow a clear learning curve, you can dive in and start learning how to do the work
you love. .
A Premium Membership begins around $10 a month for unlimited access to all courses, but the
first 1000 people to sign up with this link will get their first 2 months for free. So ask yourself right now. What skill have you been putting off learning. What project have you been dreaming of completing,
but you aren’t sure if you have the skills to do it. Why not start right now and sign up to Skillshare
using the link below to get your first 2 months free. You have nothing to lose and a valuable life
skill to gain. As usual thanks for watching and thank you
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links to my twitter, facebook, discord server, subreddit and instagram pages are below.

Comments 100

  • 4:27 Factorio vibes

    Edit: 10:39 Welp, there you go

  • Can you make a video about iron man suit/tech?

  • How Industrial Engineering took over the world!!

  • Factory grows…

  • Chrysler Fiat called. They don't like being called "Cadillac."

  • Really wish you didn’t transition into the adverts at the end like that. I know an adverts coming up as the end of the video approaches so I lose interest as I know whatever’s being said is just to create some link to discuss the sponsor.

  • 👍🏼👍🏼

  • As a labor activist and a worker, thanks for touching on the complex labor issues that came with the rise of mass manufacturing.

  • Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line, either. It was previously known as "armory practice" and dates back to the mid 1800s. Henry Ford simply perfected and popularized it.

  • Industrialization was a mistake. For those unaware, read a pdf of Industrial Society and its Future online.

  • What plane is that at 5:45?

  • Can you do a video over the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin?

  • Ford actually saw the moving assembly line at the Waltham watch factory

  • I really think that “right place right time” argument is complete bullshit because EVERYTHING in history would be considered that. Genghis Khan wasn’t a great man he just was born around the time that China was weak, which is just a disservice to accomplishments.

  • He is the one who we can blame for the world falling apart, great to know.

  • 0:17
    1769 eh? They had cameras back then to record videos?

  • I see ,you're a marxist

  • Damn you’re goddamn leftist!how can you be blind to the progress this man and all capitalists made for mankind standard of living and affordable consumer products! All the left is consumed by marxism and hate for the wealthy regardless of how they made it..we should be learning from this people not destroying their legacy.

  • Watch the car at 8:50

  • Dude I absolutely love your channel!!!

  • Henry Ford's paraphrased quote:

    Ask people what they want, and they'll say 'a faster horse.' You need to design what they need.

  • Mass reproduction had been going on for over a century before the ford came on to the scene.

  • You forgot to mention that Jhon D Rockefeller was backing Ford financially to ensure that the inefficient oil guzzlers would be produced and sold to LOCK IN the dependance on oil and grow the Oil INDUSTry market.

  • Like because of Factorio

  • Industrial manufacturing that is the tool but the why Ford was a success is the price he charged for a car If Tesla had made a electric car for 25,000 from the start they would three times the size they are now and never stayed in the red for more than a year.

  • Love the factorio shoutout

  • I am sorry but it wasn't Ford that introduced the mass production technique, but KNUDSON, get your facts right

  • Got it! In the old days, "Feed the machine." In the new days, "Machine feed the machine."

  • I would actually like to hear more about your time working on a factory line.

  • GM just fires thousands of workers

  • One of the most (IMO) revolutionary ideas that Ford promulgated was that he wanted to manufacture a car in such a manner that the people who built it could afford to buy and own one…

    …An idea that (along with the 8-hour day and 40-hour week) helped the concept of a modern, industrial blue collar 'middle class' to grow into part of the American identity… an idea which is still marginally viable 100 years later. (Thanks to both Ford and trade unions, collective bargaining, labor laws, OSHA, etc- but Ford came first- mostly)

    The foregoing is, admittedly, a primarily sociological perspective, rather than an economic or political one, but i think it has some value, even today in the U.S's modern service economy. Imho, anyway)

  • Is it possible to have an American person to speak other than having to be bothered by hearing Irish accent, Unsubscribed !.

  • Beep beep

  • I do not want a sense of urgency assembling my aeroplane!!

  • 8:41, the clip is from Slovenia, licence plate is from capital of Slovenia, called Ljubljana!

  • If Mr. Ford didn't invent the production line, someone else would have.

  • Omg I’m literally playing factorio rn

  • Factorio is a great game assuming you have the patience for it.

  • Just out of curiosity (since you mentioned it a few times) what specifically was your job and where did you work at? Also why did you leave that job? I'm invested into going into a line of work like this and I was curious to get your opinion on it.

  • Being at the right place and right time is only half the battle… you still gotta fight it well

  • Congratulations on getting out of that sanity-destroying 12hr shift repetitive factory job.

    Your vids are great.

  • Would you be interested in doing a video on LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) reactors? I'm curious what your take on that sort of nuclear energy is, because I'm all for it!

  • Ford just took what Sam Colt did with pistols and applied it to cars. Colt doesn't get nearly enough credit for his work in revolutionizing mass manufacturing. However like Ford he's often misrepresented as inventing the thing he produced. Colt did not invent the revolver, revolvers have existed for hundreds of years, carefully craft-produced and only available to nobility and the very wealthy. What Sam Colt did was to create a revolver that could be mass manufactured and cheap enough for any citizen to afford one. As the saying goes: all men were created equal, but Sam Colt made them equal.


  • Great video ! It made me think of one of Elon Musk’s tweet, in which he said that designing the machines making the car engine is 100x harder than designing the engine itself (and 10x for rocket engines)

  • Hey part of the videos he showed in the background there were model A’s sorry just I have a model A soo

  • In recent years, there have been several attempts to re-write history and claim that Ford's Model T was not designed to run on ethanol/alcohol. Attempts have also been made to re-write history to say that John Rockefeller did not use Prohibition to shut down the alcohol fuel industry.

    I just published a thorough review and analysis of Ford's intentions for the Model T, as well as an eye opening look at what I believe John Rockefeller intended to do.

    The story is called: Yes, Tin Lizzie Was An Alcoholic

    You can find it at .

  • Ford didn't invent anything, all he did was combine and refine already existing concepts. The first flow line production for instance was in gun making – Samuel Colt, and later steam engine manufacture – look up 'Long Shop Museum' and Richard Garrett III. Ford was also an admirer of the Nazis and a thoroughly despicable man by any sensible measure, he doesn't deserve any admiration in todays society.

  • oh shit I was listening to this guys channel while playing factorio

  • As a chemE/indE grad with extreme breadth and 0 depth, this video speaks to my fucking HEART <3

  • Karl Benz's 1885 "car" was NOT a two stroke, it was a four stroke. There is a company that produces full size working replicas of Benz's 1885 car, I believe they're out of India, they also make replicas of Henry Ford's quadricycle.

  • Another fun fact about Ford: every Model T came with anti Semitic literature in the glove box because he was a massive racist.

  • I recently completed a review of the history of the Model T as a flex fuel (multi-fuel) vehicle. Read the entire report at:

  • "Toyoda"
    Oh God, did I slip into the Berenstain universe again?

  • black dried faster

  • Really interesting video

  • Factorio! <3

  • Lest we forget Deming and his team helping Japan? Maybe someone has already stated this…

  • Fascinating stuff!

  • From 8 hours to just over 2 minutes? That's incredible.

  • Although I understand Henry Ford's importance to the field of automotive engineering and general manufacturing processes. I also have no respect for anti-semitic bigots.

  • Cears!

  • "Used a flexible milling machine" B-roll of surface grinder.


  • The assembly line: turning people into robots for over 100 years.

  • 1:23 Looks like Frank Frink from Man In the High Castle

    -Henry Ford

  • almost liked the video until the skillshare crap 🙁

  • A) it’s ford gm and Chrysler, Cadillac is a unit of gm
    B)to say the us auto industry is non unionised and low paying betrays a deep lack of knowledge about the said industry
    C) and to say the us manufacturers chucked their workers out of employment at the drop of a hat and this in some way helped their decline is laughable, rather it’s overmanning while its competitors in japan etc rapidly introduced robotics and less labour and garnered more efficiency can better explain the relative decline of the us auto sector. Although gm, Ford and fca are still massive, profitable Industry behemoths generating over a hundred billion dollars per year in sales.

  • Okay, it's just not true that American auto companies historically viewed their employees as disposable (at least after the 1940s). For decades economists complained that auto manufacturers were hoarding labor during economic slumps, preventing workers from moving to better-paying jobs and hurting efficiency. This changed after trade with China expanded in the 90s and after the 2008 financial crisis decimated the auto industry.

  • Really enjoy this channel.

  • Hey, shout out to factorio (only have 800 hrs in the game) and for me things backing up is a good sign in the game, means I have enough of it

  • And where is Mercedes Benz and where is Ford? Ford is barely survive in the market.

  • What was the name of the game?

  • You seemed to be obsessed with someone thinking ford built the first car. Did you have an argument with someone who told you that ford built the first car? I have never heard that ford built the first car before.

  • Our engineers at my job are shit. The prints they give us are constantly wrong or you don’t have the right print for your job. I am a laser operator, so I always need flat prints, but constantly our engineers don’t add the dimensions I need to even run my schedule.

  • Although Ford gets the credit for the assembly line, Samual Colt was making revolvers using the same technology nearly 50 years before Ford.

  • Guy flips off the camera at 8:50

  • Mass production was first developed by Marc Brunel (father of the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel) when he introduced ship's block making machinery for the Royal Navy in the early nineteenth century.

  • He also helped change society in another way by promoting antisemitism. He helped spread the conspiracy of Jewish world domination to the USA by funding the printing of 500,000 copies of a hoax Russian antisemitic book and in his weekly personal newspaper he would attack Jewish people. He helped inspire Hitler and Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle by Nazi Germany on his 75th birthday.

  • How Henry Ford created the (Industrial) assembly line. lol (Edit)

  • Which model of renault is ford T serial production?

  • Excellent content, delivery, and accent

  • This guy has no idea at all
    Cadillac were first to establish standardized interchangeable parts. The Dodge brothers who made parts for the whole industry were required to comply and did, standardizing all their part measurements. The Dodge Brothers {Who designed the model T by the way at Fords request} supplied standardized parts to ford. When they didn't fit the ford parts he then Standardized his own.

    The First implementation of the moving assembly line was at Buick introduced by Walter P Chrysler. Earlier by several months. It wasn't a secret as the backlog of ordered cars started to rapidly appear. The lines was credited with the improved production volume.

  • You can’t spend all your time judging people as you go back in history or you wind up just moralizing. Anyway, didn’t it occur to old Henry that letting people, potential competitors, inspect the mfg process would , in the long run, erode his competitive advantage? The Japanese in particular learned the importance of quality control from an American while the Americans seemed to forget it.

  • And was manufaktured cheap so almost everyone could afford a Ford!😈😈😈😂😂😂

  • The big three are ford gm and Chrysler

  • Karl Benz made the first petrol powered motor vehicle. Steam powered buses were common in England in the 1830's until the English government banned them in the 1860's.

  • Where I work (beside my studies) we have 0mm tolerance, which is why we are in the top 3 of The Netherlands

  • Are you a teacher

  • Nice Segway into the ad

  • Reminds me of a shaft in the JD 4020 tractor that the shaft has to be in freezer for 24 hours and the collar that goes on the shaft has to be placed in a pan of 250 degree oil to insure proper assembly

  • I wish they still made these cars. So simple easy to maintain and practical. So tied of cars that cost as much as a home. Yet no one listens.

  • Just got a Ford ad on this vid

  • Frederick W. Taylor and 'Scientific Management'. Just saying, still suffering.

  • Russia supposedly can spit out rockets and jets at ungodly speeds by using new machines that instantly print/cast almost every part ! Apparently faster than you could ever imagine !

  • You`ve just confirmed Ford`s main principle with all your videos:
    Make a great job and you will need no promo.
    Best regards, colleague)

  • I will be honest. The assembly line is a great step forward for technology, but a very sad one for the romanticist. This was, after all, the innovation that all but killed the classic craftsman. The kind you see in so many historical settings, as well as history itself. Yes, I know the craftsman can still exist, particularly in high end jewelry and clothing industries for instance, but even so…

    This is the innovation that ended such concepts as, for instance, the concept of a warrior having been able to earn a superior weapon made by a high end craftsman, or a noble or merchant being able to obtain high quality goods made by higher end craftsman.

  • don't like your voice

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